The Justice Department early Friday asked a federal judge in San Francisco to allow the government to bar Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google from offering WeChat for download in U.S. app stores pending an appeal.
The filing asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler to put on hold her preliminary injunction issued Saturday. That injunction blocked the U.S. Commerce Department order which was set to take effect late on Sept. 20 and that would also bar other U.S. transactions with Tencent Holding’s WeChat, potentially making the app unusable in the United States.
The Justice Department filing said Beeler’s order was in error and “permits the continued, unfettered use of WeChat, a mobile application that the Executive Branch has determined constitutes a threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
Tencent declined to comment.
In support of its argument, the Justice Department made public portions of a Sept. 17 Commerce Department memo outlining the WeChat transactions to be banned. “The WeChat mobile application collects and transmits sensitive personal information on U.S. persons, which is accessible to Tencent and stored in data centers in China and Canada,” the memo said.
Beeler said WeChat users who filed a lawsuit “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim.”
The Justice Department filing said “the First Amendment does not bar regulation of WeChat simply because it has achieved the popularity and dependency sought by (China), precisely so it can surveil users, promote its propaganda, and otherwise place U.S. national security at risk.”